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Cells Tissues Organs. 2013;198(5):390-7. doi: 10.1159/000359999. Epub 2014 Mar 21.

Histomorphology and immunohistochemistry of the lower esophageal sphincter of the least shrew (Cryptotis parva).

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Department of Anatomy, Western University of Health Sciences, Pomona, Calif., USA.


The biochemical and histopathological changes in the lower esophageal sphincter (LES) in the pathogenesis of gastroesophageal reflux disease have gained interest. The least shrew is able to vomit in response to emetogens and provides a good model to study the histology of this phenomenon relative to the published reports in the commonly used but vomit-incompetent laboratory species. The LES is located at the junction of the esophagus and stomach. It typically closes at rest and opens in response to swallowing. Our findings demonstrate that the least shrew does not have a well-defined LES, lacks esophageal glands and has a mucosal valve-like projection from the terminal end of the esophagus before joining the gastric epithelium at the lesser curvature. In addition, the least shrew has thoracic and abdominal components prior to joining the gastric epithelium. The mucosal lining of the esophagus is folded, becoming clearly convoluted and forming a bucket-like structure at the level of the esophageocardiac junction (ECJ). No significant differences are to be found between the structure and thickness of the wall before and after the ECJ. Thus, the ECJ forming the LES is relatively less complex than those of other mammals including man. The distribution of enterochromaffin (EC) cells is confined to the lamina propria of the junction and is not associated with the cardiac glands, suggesting its functional involvement with the smooth muscle in and around the ECJ. In conclusion, the least shrew's anatomical sphincter appears ill-defined and is replaced by a less sturdy valve-like mucosal flap.

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